Ayahuasca is a psychedelic infusion made up of the extract of two Amazon plants, the Ayahuasca and Chacruno. It has psychedelic effects like altered thinking, loss of time sense, and hard emotions for whoever takes it. Besides hearing or seeing things that don’t exist. Therefore, in recent years, it has become incredibly popular to travel to spiritual retreats with Ayahuasca in the middle of the Peruvian Amazon; these ceremonies are useful to travel to the unconscious, connect with nature and relieve both physical and mental pain. For this reason, together with the experts from Machu Travel Peru, we would like to tell you a little more about Ayahuasca in Peru and all its benefits.
Everything you need to know about Ayahuasca in Peru
- The Ayahuasca, the Vine of the Dead
- Its elaboration
- Don’t take it as a joke
- Not everyone can organize an Ayahuasca ritual
- Preparation before taking it
- The Ayahuasca ritual is not for everyone
- The ceremony: Step by step
- Benefits of the Ayahuasca
- Experience and side effects
- The best Ayahuasca retreats
The Ayahuasca, the Vine of the Dead
Ayahuasca is a jungle vine that grows in the middle of the jungle. It is commonly found in the territories of Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, and the Guyanas. It is quite revered by the indigenous tribes as well as the shamans of the Andean regions. Furthermore, it is considered a “Master Plant”. The term Ayahuasca derives from the ancient Quechua language. The Quechua words “Aya” translates to the dead, while “Huasca” translates to vine or rope. That is to say, the “Rope of the Dead” or the Vine of the Dead. The concoction has been used for more than 5000 years for both individual and collective healing. Therefore, If you are looking to visit Machu Picchu, you can enjoy one of these ceremonies.
But, What exactly is Ayahuasca? It is an infusion made by shamans of the Amazon jungle based on this “Vine of the Dead”. It serves to enter altered states of consciousness and obtain new perspectives on life. Historically, it is known that many visited shamans to heal themselves from physical, mental, or emotional ailments. In general, those who drank from the infusion did so to receive guidance from the “spirit” that inhabits the plant. Today, the tradition remains strongly rooted in Ayahuasca ceremonies. And during the last decades, shamans began to serve the infusion to different patients under their supervision.
Despite common belief, preparing Ayahuasca in Peru is quite difficult. Most of those who try to do it, don’t have the desired effects or even have bad experiences accompanied by indigestion. Ayahuasca is made by shamans using the Ayahuasca vine (Which contains natural chemical compounds that resemble DMT) and the Chacruno leaves (Which allow Ayahuasca metabolization within the body) Both can be obtained naturally in the middle of the Amazon basin.
According to tradition, these two plants must be collected on a full moon or in the morning. In addition, whoever picks it up must be fasting. It takes about ten kilos of Ayahuasca to prepare the infusion. For this, the Ayahuasca vine is crushed to make them easier to cook. Then a kilo of Chacruna is added. Depending on the shaman, the concoction can include tobacco and coca leaves.
Note that the preparation is boiled for 12 hours in about 50 liters of water. And while it is being prepared, it is accompanied by shamanic chants known in the Amazon as Icaros. It is also accompanied by tobacco puffs while asking for specific intentions. Both the songs and the intentions are invocations to the spirit of Ayahuasca. The 50 liters of the initial preparation is reduced to only 2 liters of Ayahuasca. The result is a liquid with a viscous texture and a reddish-ocher color. This is one of the many ways to prepare, but everything will depend on the Shaman and his traditional methods.
Don’t take it as a joke
The Ayahuasca consumption and the ritual that involve this fact is a hard tradition of Amazon tribes and communities for more than 5000 years to establish contact with the spirit of Ayahuasca (an ancient Amazonian deity that surrounds all living beings of this world and the eternal world) and to be able to heal of both physical and mental illnesses. Participating in this ritual is a privilege. The Amazon communities share this intimate custom for those who need a cure or spiritual support for the evil that afflicts them.
Therefore, to take this ritual as a hallucinogen party (Only to feel its effects and compare it with other drugs) is quite an insult to these Amazon communities and their good intention of helping you.
Not everyone can organize an Ayahuasca ritual
In the same line, this ancient ritual has to be guided by a Shaman, a native amazon master (Person with many years of experience) who inherited the knowledge of brew preparation and ritual direction from the elderly person of his community (Selected by him). Therefore, if someone (Majority of them citizens) offers to guide you in an Ayahuasca ritual through your tourism in Peru, you can begin to doubt. Only a native amazon master can do this kind of ritual.
In addition, the persons who administer and organize this Ayahuasca ritual have to be the same native people of Amazon communities (generally the same Shaman) As we told you, this is an ancient and intimate ritual of them who decide to share it with a person in need of healing. We emphasize this because nowadays, you find many retreats resorts, most of them administered by foreign people, offering packages from 1 week until an entire month with Ayahuasca rituals in the middle. Remember, the Ayahuasca ritual doesn’t have to be a business, it is a way of sharing healing.
Preparation before taking it
As your body will receive a hard psychotropic like Ayahuasca, it has to need a previous preparation to withstand the effects of the concoction during hallucinations. These can be dizziness, vomiting, even heavy sweating. Each Amazon Shaman gives a general food list to avoid within 7 days before the ritual, a kind of diet, which may vary.
- Coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, chocolates
- Carbonated beverages (Sodas)
- Foods or drinks with coloring
- Canned meals
- Spicy meals
- Sweet foods
- High-sodium foods
- Red meats and pork
- Medication of any kind
So, What kind of food can I eat?
Generally, the Shamans recommend, 7 days previous to the Ayahuasca ritual, eating organic meals (without any preservatives and chemicals) like fruits and vegetables, besides chicken and fish. Again, if a person has any kind of medication, this will not participate in Ayahuasca rituals.
The diet on the same day of the ritual
Unfortunately, there is not a diet on the same day of the ritual (Usually it is developed at night). On this day, the participant has to be on an empty stomach. Only drinking water, water, and more water.
The Ayahuasca ritual is not for everyone
Can you do Ayahuasca in Peru? Yes, you can. First, it is a good idea to eliminate any misconceptions you have about Ayahuasca. Despite the tabloid media and other news, Ayahuasca is not a recreational drug. It is not something to get high and enjoy the moment or a magic pill that will solve your problems. For the indigenous people of the Amazon, Ayahuasca is more than a simple plant, it is a spirit, a sacred and ancestral ritual for healing.
However, the great introspection trip that the participant will have during the session, with hallucinations, sensations, even vertigo, requires good physical and mental conditions. Therefore, some persons are prevented from participating in this ritual, by their current condition. The same Shaman, who is thinking about your welfare always, will ask you some questions previously to find you fit or not. Remember, the Ayahuasca ritual is performed to heal you and not to harm you.
- Women pregnant
- Heart surgery
- Chronic cardiovascular conditions
- Persons who use a pacemaker
- People with poor circulation
- Chronic blood diseases
- People with schizophrenia and bipolarity
- People who are currently using antidepressants
At this last point, we have to clarify. People with depressive symptoms can participate in the session. (The ritual is known to offer improvements, even healing to depressive people) However, they must be free of medication even 7 days before the ritual.
The Ceremony: Step by step
What is the Ayahuasca ceremony? It is a ceremony with strong cultural roots within the original tribes of the Amazon. This is done in a group of 5 to 20 people, although this can vary. Within a traditional Ayahuasca ceremony, you will have the opportunity to receive treatment for your soul and let it participate in its own healing. Participants usually arrive early in the evening, as these usually take place at night. Participants arrive before the ceremony begins to show respect for the healer (Shaman), or healers, who lead the ceremony, and they take seats over pads situated around the Shaman, every pad has its own vomit bucket.
The Shaman usually prepares the site for the ceremony first. This consists of cleaning the space with Mapacho tobacco puffs, prayers, songs, and blessings. After the initial preparations, presentations can take place. If you are planning a trip to Peru, it is a good idea to find out about the different retreats available.
1. The beginning of the ceremony
The start ceremony begins in silence, although this may depend on the Shaman. Some choose to sing and bring a welcoming atmosphere to the participants. Keep in mind that any song is not allowed, if not medicine songs or Icaros from the Amazon jungle singed by the Shaman. This healer may choose to speak with each participant about the intention he seeks to cultivate, the dosage, or other recommendations for a pleasant experience.
He then calls each participant to have a cup of Ayahuasca. The healer also drinks a cup after each participant has received a cup of Ayahuasca. The ceremony takes place with the lights off and when the medicine begins to take effect, that is when the healer begins to sing. The songs take place throughout the ceremony and are loaded with an intention. The songs can be accompanied by drums and other instruments.
This moment can be an unsettling time. As each participant’s consciousness expands, symptoms of dizziness and malaise may appear. Physical purging or vomiting is usually more frequent during the start of the ceremony. The purge is considered a cleansing process where the experience is a metaphysical equivalent where you expel all those trapped feelings and traumas.
2. During the ceremony
Medicine songs are one of the most important parts of the Ayahuasca ceremonies. In the experience, the Shamans sing healing songs called “Icaros.” These songs help the healers to communicate with the spirits and ask for help in the healing treatments of the patients. Each Icarus has a specific purpose in the ceremony process. The healers sing to invite the spirits to be present and perform the necessary cures. The healer can sing throughout the ceremony as patients navigate their own visions and experiences. Shamans also use the Icaros to mark the pace and rhythm of the ceremony. Either to raise or lower the intensity. This is most often seen with drum beats that can go faster or slower depending on the timing.
Alternative healing tools
The Medicine Man or Shaman often participates in individual cures for patients. Where this will focus on someone in the group to sing a specific Icaro. Some people claim to experience pain during this time. Shamans, in addition to chanting to heal, can remove negative energy by blowing smoke or spraying scented liquid such as rose water.
The healers have several tools and these can range from the breath, their hands, tobacco, flowery water, and other tools that are deemed necessary. For healers, it is the plant spirits who guide the flow of energies and personal experiences within the group. It does not matter if you are on solo travel in Peru, the ceremonies are carried out in groups. So it will be an excellent opportunity to meet people.
Ayahuasca ceremonies in Peru usually include the use of special tobacco known as “Mapacho”. Shamans are those who smoke directly with their breath, or “Soplay” as they call it. This puff of smoke serves to cleanse the spirit and body of the patient. The Mapacho is also used to clean the ceremony space, the cup where the medicine will be drunk, and the infusion itself. The Mapacho and the smoke of this tobacco are considered great healer that helps in the communication of other plant spirits.
3. Closing of the ceremony
Usually ends with an Icarus that helps close the healing circle. The healer provides patients with protection against any kind of spiritual vulnerability before leaving. After the end of the ceremony, the lights are turned on and a small talk is given. The shaman is free to add a few words for each of the patients or a general talk. Then the lights go on and people are free to go to rest. The ceremonies can last until dawn, due to the duration of the effects of Ayahuasca. It is one of the strongest healing experiences that Peru offers. If you are looking for something that changes your perspective forever, this is a good opportunity.
Benefits of the Ayahuasca
The effects of this medicinal infusion can vary greatly depending on the patient, the set and setting, and the dosage. But of one thing you can be sure, the effects produce a before and after in most users. Whether you get deep spiritual insights, insight into your relationships, or a connection to nature, the universe, and your own psyche. Many believe that it helps you reach states of enlightenment, where you approach new understandings of either the sentimental or material dimension of your life. But you shouldn’t get carried away either, as there can also be bad experiences.
- Ayahuasca promotes brain health: According to Frontiers in Neuroscience research, the DMT of Ayahuasca activates the Sigma-1 receptor, this protein is responsible to avoid brain cells degeneration, promotes the production of antioxidants for the protection of brain cells against lack of oxygen, for example. Also, other research of the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs found that the natural β-Carboline alkaloid Harmine of Ayahuasca promotes the growth of brain cells, avoids aging.
- It improves psychological well-being: Other research of Frontiers in Pharmacology affirms that Ayahuasca consumption improves with the acceptance that one has about himself (his image and personality). Otherwise, a Psychopharmacology Magazine study affirms that Ayahuasca can improve mindfulness, emotional regulation, and mood.
- Treat addiction, treatment-resistant depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder: Some studies conducted in North America affirm that consumption of Ayahuasca in depressive people can reduce their levels of anxiety and depression in one session and with long-lasting effects. Also, a study by the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs affirms Ayahuasca is effective in treating depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and drug addiction, including dependence on nicotine, alcohol, and crack.
Previously, Ayahuasca in Peru was limited to its traditional use by the native people both in the Amazon and some parts of Peruvian Andes. This mystical infusion has been used as traditional medicine by different indigenous tribes for thousands of years. This psychoactive has become very popular with tourists, who have flocked to various retreat centers. Many of these centers are located in jungle areas of Peru and are run by renowned shamans. This medicine is said to be highly beneficial for self-discovery, addiction problems, anger management, and even problems like cancer.
Experience and side effects
For some people, the healer remains a guide who facilitates a comfortable experience. But it is the spirit of the plant that is considered as a teacher or therapist who comes to teach the participant. This spirit could be thought of as an independent entity that transforms the person who welcomes it into it while giving them access to a holistic and dreamlike vision of the world. While for other people, the spirit of the plant could be considered as a guide. But the spirit will function as an internal and intrinsic guide to the individual. This could be considered as an experience of oneself with oneself, where the individual himself is the agent of his healing.
So in general, what you can expect from Ayahuasca is an alteration and amplification of your state of consciousness. The Ayahuasca experience can result in an extraordinary encounter with the “I”. As well as the identification of a true “I” previously unrecognized and rediscovered. During the experience, there is no dissolution or loss of consciousness. On the contrary, only one modification of it occurs. The subject is aware throughout the session of who he is, where he is, and what he has taken. By calling the participants by their names, they respond, but this can lead them away from their main visions.
The best Ayahuasca retreats
Which Ayahuasca retreat is the best? This is one of the most frequently asked questions among different tourists and foreigners. Definitely, in the Peruvian Amazon, you will find the best spiritual retreats because in this zone the Ayahuasca plant grows and was born its ritual. Therefore, if you want to discover mysteries in Machu Picchu or Amazon, the best mysteries will be found just in the jungles of Cusco, Iquitos, or Puerto Maldonado, in other words, Ayahuasca ritual. You will have wonderful opportunities to enjoy a unique ceremony. Keep in mind that it is important to do it with a certified shaman or with some renowned or prestigious healer.
Since many people transform these ceremonies into an exploitative business, many of them are foreign people that situate its big complexes in the middle of the jungle or offer their services in the same cities. These kinds of services are not recommendable. The Ayahuasca is an intimate and short ritual for those who want to heal physical and psychic affections.
Also, the different lodges that specialize in services within the jungle have to be administrated by native Amazon people, because it is his customs put at the service of others and do not have to be misused by foreign people. In this case, our recommendation is Posadas Amazonas, a lodge administrate by Ese’Eja Amazon community, to offer to heal to surroundings towns, native people, and foreign people who want to share this ritual with the local inhabitants of Amazon, the true owners of Ayahuasca ritual.
The price of the experience
If you are looking to enjoy a good official Ayahuasca retreat in Peru you can choose one of these big retreat resorts situated in the middle of Cusco, Iquitos, or Puerto Maldonado jungle. But this will depend on the retreat you are going to and the activities it includes. The ceremony could be considered one of the best tours in Peru after Machu Picchu and cost in the $ 1,000 to $ 1,500 range.
However, if you decide to take this Ayahuasca ritual through a native Amazon master or community, the session can cost only $ 60 approx. As a form of collaboration with the community. Therefore, If you plan things to do in Machu Picchu or surrounding areas, you can choose the last option. Finally, the decision is yours.
“THE SCARIEST PART OF AYAHUASCA, THE THING THAT SCARES US THE MOST, IS THAT WE MIGHT SEE OURSELVES”
We hope together with the experts from Machu Travel Peru to have been helpful. As you can see, Ayahuasca retreats in Peru are quite an experience. You can choose to include this activity in your itinerary, but it is good to do some research beforehand. There are numerous possibilities for retreats and ceremonies within the jungle of Peru, as in other regions. If you don’t feel ready to embark on this unparalleled adventure, we recommend that you do so when you are. And thus enjoy one of the unique activities in Peru.